Zack Snyder's time with the DC Extended Universe may be over, but more information is constantly coming out about his original plans for the universe, including the recent revelation that Superman's story was supposed to be 5 movies long. The DCEU is still steadily moving forward without Snyder, but after the failure of Justice League, it's not abundantly clear what direction the franchise will be heading outside of its selection of stand-alone films.

Lost in the shuffle seems to be Man of Steel 2, a movie a number of fans want to see enter production. Henry Cavill is still passionate about the character and all but confirmed to have a part in Shazam, but, despite rumblings, the movie doesn't appear to be any closer to development. The first Man of Steel came out 5 years ago, so how is its sequel not further along?

The answer has recently surfaced and left many fans scratching their heads. It turns out the sequel to Man of Steel was always meant to be Batman v Superman. In fact, according to Jay Oliva, who worked closely with Zack Snyder on all his DCEU projects, Man of Steel was the first installment in what Snyder intended to be a five movie arc focused on Superman. However, despite the focus on the big blue boy scout, not a single one of those movies was meant to be Man of Steel 2

So that means Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League Part I, and Justice League Part II had a fifth companion to tell a single Superman arc. Is it possible there was supposed to also be a Justice League Part III? While only 2 Justice League movies were ever announced by Warner Bros, but back in 2015, a rumor briefly circulated claiming that Justice League would be a trilogy. It didn't get much traction at the time, but with what we know now, especially in light of Jay Oliva's recent tweets, a Zack Snyder planned Justice League trilogy makes a lot of sense.

  • This Page: The DCEU Was More Planned Out Than People Think

The DCEU Was More Planned Out Than People Think

The DCEU has been under fire for the way it developed its shared universe since day one. After Man of Steel served as a standalone introduction, it was announced that Batman would be introduced in the sequel, Batman v Superman. This immediately caused intense debate over why they would introduce major characters like this instead of giving them a solo movie first like Marvel did. Ironically, at the same time, the DCEU was also drawing criticism for simply copying Marvel in its attempt to launch a shared universe franchise.

The absurdity of the idea that all characters need their own solo movie first aside (there are decades of excellent ensemble movies that introduce all their characters just fine), the "Marvel formula" is a new thing when it comes to franchise filmmaking, so the assumption that all franchises need to do the same thing is a bit premature. In fact, when it comes to multibillion-dollar franchises, Marvel's formula is in the minority. The Fast and the Furious movies have been almost exclusively team-ups before finally getting a spin-off with Hobbs and Shaw, and Harry Potter was also all ensemble movies without origin stories for each character.

The reality is Zack Snyder had a full arc plotted out, and there's even evidence in movies with things like the Knightmare sequence, the crosses at the end of the Doomsday battle, and more all serving as set up for something that was supposed to pay off in movies down the line.

The problem, and where claims that DC didn't have a plan should get a little credence, is the fact that Zack Snyder was never allowed to properly execute on that plan. Warner Bros. has spent a majority of the DCEU trying to course correct, cutting 30 minutes from Snyder's cut of BvS to create the inferior theatrical cut, drastically altering Suicide Squad after BvS's reception, ordering pre-production changes to Snyder's original version of Justice League, then, eventually, firing him altogether and having Joss Whedon reshoot the movie into a completely different tone and significantly altered story.

Regardless, the 5 movie plan was drastically changed, and we'll probably only ever see 2 1/2 of them, but after putting the pieces back together, it looks like a Justice League trilogy could have been in the cards.

Why Justice League 3 Makes Sense

Justifying the idea that Warner Bros. had a Justice League trilogy in mind might almost be a thinking backwards when the real question should be "why would there be only two Justice League movies?" Trilogies aren't just a Hollywood staple, but a core assumption behind most episodic storytelling for thousands of years. Zack Snyder, as a big fan of Joseph Campbell, Greek mythology, and all manner of thematic arcs, could very understandably plan a trilogy for the Justice League within his 5 movie Superman arc.

Besides, Warner Bros. and DC let Zack Snyder cast the entire Justice League himself, proving his Justice League movies were intended to be the core of this universe, and other filmmakers like Patty Jenkins and James Wan (and Ben Affleck, for a time) would come in and tell stand-alone stories. If the focus was intended to be primarily on the individual character movies, then the stand-alone movies would have happened earlier and those filmmakers would have had more of a hand in making the casting decisions. Nevertheless, Snyder was the one to cast every single member of the Justice League, with his own story arc in mind for the entire team.

If the DCEU plan had developed as intended, it would have been a sort of inverse of the Marvel Studios formula. Marvel has each character carry out their own solo series, which all come together for regular team-up movies. The DC model was going to have the Justice League serve as the central story, with each solo movie serving as a spin-off of its own. Not unlike what the Fast and Furious franchise is about to do with The Rock.

What Would Justice League 3 Be About?

With all the details we've already identified about the movie that would have been Justice League 2, it's hard to know exactly what would be left for a third Justice League movie, except it's important to remember that the original 5 movie plan became a 4 movie plan, which means the Justice League story was condensed into just 2 films. Expanding the story out further, it actually makes a lot more sense as a trilogy, and it particularly explains the choice of Steppenwolf for the villain in the first film.

As a trilogy, the first movie could have seen Steppenwolf come to Earth for the Mother Boxes, causing the Justice League to unite to defeat him, with some sort of cliffhanger setting up Darkseid. Justice League 2 would have been the introduction of Darkseid, likely modeling his invasion after the Justice League's New 52 origins or Justice League War animated movie, possibly introducing additional heroes like Green Lantern and Shazam. Then, Justice League 3 would have contained most of the elements of the movie we now see as Justice League 2, meaning it would be largely inspired by Grant Morrison's Final Crisis comics, seeing Darkseid enslave much of the world with the anti-life equation, bring resolution to the Knightmare timeline, and have Batman sacrifice himself fighting Darkseid.

Not only does this structure make for a more sensible 3-part story about the Justice League, but it also satisfies the notion of a 5-part Superman arc. Man of Steel is Clark Kent (the "man," not yet Superman) discovering his identity as a Kryptonian, his heritage as Kal El, and responsibility as a hero. Batman v Superman is his struggle to find his place in a world that doesn't understand him, ultimately seeing him give his life for that world. Justice League would be his resurrection (or, rebirth) as the shining hero, Justice League 2 would be him rising above the role of savior and becoming the leader of a team of heroes, and Justice League 3 would be Superman growing beyond a hero and a team leader to be a true inspiration, lining up with Jor El's speech from Man of Steel, which, ironically, was taken from All Star Superman, which, like Final Crisis (the presumed inspiration for JL3) was written by Grant Morrison: "They will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time you will help them accomplish wonders."

Like most of the DCEU's plan, this course of action would have already been abandoned even before the Joss Whedon course adjustment during Justice League's production or the course adjustment after Justice League's fallout and every course adjustment in between. So, while fans call for the release of the Snyder Cut or bemoan the loss of a Justice League 2 that will never be, Justice League 3 was likely never much more than an outline on a whiteboard, but like with the also-canceled Justice League: Mortal from George Miller, sometimes it's nice to know what could have been.

MORE: Zack Snyder's Cut Of Justice League Was More Complete Than You Realize

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